Rotational PowerAs martial arts practitioners, we hone our skills every time we are on the mat. Whether it’s balance, distancing or just learning to fall correctly, all contribute to improve our overall skill. One concept that I have added to my training is “rotational power.” I firmly believe understanding and incorporating rotational power will support your techniques as well, making them more efficient and more effective. 

What is rotational power? Rotational power is the transfer of energy from the hips through the midsection into extremities- making use of the abdominals, lower back, pelvic floor and hips. It is a power move that incorporates timing and precision. Generating power is one aspect, the other is directing it and being able to reset your position with balance and control.

How do you train rotational power? According to Greg Robins from “In order to create rotational power we need to train for better force production into the ground, not just sagittal, but laterally too. We also need to drill in timing of the hips to more efficiently transfer the force created through the ground. Lastly, we need to train the core to hold a stable position so that force can effectively make its way up the chain and create considerable whip of the upper extremities.” There are several drills that can be found online to help cultivate this energy transfer. One strengthening exercise that is very effective is the medicine ball throw. This is performed by rotating your hips and throwing a medicine ball into a concrete or block wall. What you are focusing on in this is the transfer of power from the rear hip to the front hip as it transfers then to your core into your arms.  Strengthening your core is vital.  A part of our beginning sequence at the dojo, we’ve incorporated several exercises that works to strengthen the core. This includes plank, side plank, crunches and T-stabilization.

The drill that I use to cultivate control and awareness of rotational power is the “Hubad Lubad” drill (commonly seen in Filipino MA). Having a basic foundation in ashi sabaki (footwork) will allow you to work on this drill more easily. If you can face one direction, then turn 180 degrees without lifting your heels, you’re good. It is a standard 4 count block/pass drill that is performed with straight right punches. The front straight is thrown towards your face with your left hand parrying to the right side; right hand comes up under your left, back of wrist, over uke’s right arm tracking it down and towards their wrist. Then the left hand secures uke’s right elbow trapping into his body as the right straight punch is thrown. Then it is your partner’s turn to punch and the drill continues back and forth. This is a nice drill since there are several levels of understanding that can be applied. Your speed and power is all dependent on you and your partners comfort level. Once you have been able to build up some speed with your partner, slow down and now work on control and precision. When you check uke’s right elbow into their body, hold firmly and throw your right punch. Your partner is forced to take a rear pivot step to free the trapped arm that is also dropping their shoulder as they are now watching the straight punch zeroing in on them. This is now where we want to be. The drill becomes more dynamic and less mechanical. Feel as the power go up through your feet, into your legs, to your hips, transferring to your midsection as it is expelled out through your arms. One important note is to relax. Many times when practicing this drill, I will see students build up tension in their shoulders, almost a shrug type action, not allowing themselves to have more of a whipping action to transfer energy and be free-flowing. Be mindful of this when working this drill with your partner.

Application of rotational power in Danzan Ryu can be found throughout the system which include Makikomi, Genkotsu Ude Tori, Ude Gyaku Ichi , Tekubi Shigarami, Saka Nuki and Arashi Otoshi to name a few. Each one of these technique become more efficient and effective once rotational power is emphasized. For us practicing with a partner helps us maintain control and awareness when performing our arts. Unlike hitting a baseball at the batting cages we are unable to “let it fly” in most cases. Working with partners, our first concern is their safety.

A kata example I would like to share is Katate Tori, from the list of Yawara. When uke grabs towards our obi, we get off the line by taking a pivot step back with your right foot and grab over the top of uke’s hand. Keeping your hand close to your hip, rotate on the ball of your back right foot transferring the energy to your left hip and rotate on the heel of your left foot. Energy is then transferred out to the arm that is grabbing uke’s right hand. Done with precision, timing and in a controlled manner, the technique is performed almost effortlessly with uke in complete pain compliance (tapping out).  Performed quickly the waza may result in a spiral fracture to both the ulna and radius bones of the right arm.

The heavy bag is another way to train rotational hip power. Work on the energy transfer from the ground up. Starting with your hips perpendicular to the bag, use your full body rotation and swivel on your feet. Pick your target and concentrate your energy there. Start out slow and gradually build up your speed and power. Watch your control. Note: Any time you are working on heavy bag training make sure you wrap your wrist and hands. For extra strengthening, try medicine ball throws and core or ab exercises like planks and crunches.

From Yawara to Shinyo, rotational power applications can be found throughout our system. I believe we could all benefit by incorporating its training and understanding it early along our martial arts path. It is my hope that by giving you a definition of what and where it is, and by sharing the drills and exercises in which to practice with a partner (or bag training allowing you to train by yourself), and by presenting some example techniques where the concept can implemented, your understanding and incorporation of rotational hip power will assist your techniques, making them more efficient and effective.  Lastly, its my hope this discussion stimulates your own interest in seeking out drills and exercises that focus on this technical, yet simple idea.

Brian Sincomb, Burbank Danzan Dojo

Resources: Greg Robins Training for rotational power

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